General medicine

medical error and medical negligence

The difference between medical error and medical negligence

In a world of medicine that holds people’s hopes and shapes their lives and health, trust should be the cornerstone. But what happens when a medical error occurs and patients’ rights are compromised? Medical error and medical negligence are terms that cause concern and controversy in people’s hearts and minds, in one moment, the life of a person who saw in the doctor a refuge and a symbol of safety can turn into a nightmare that ravages their confidence and threatens their health.

The harsh effects of medical error and negligence are not limited to patients. Trust in the health system is affected and the willingness of some doctors to practice their profession decreases due to fears of blame and accountability, leading to a lack of available medical services and exacerbating the healthcare crisis.

Our challenge today is to find a balance between justice for affected patients, protecting the medical system and respecting doctors who provide essential medical services to society. [1]  

Medical error

A medical error is an error that occurs in the context of health care and medical practice and refers to the performance of an incorrect or inappropriate medical procedure that results in health damage or damage to the patient. A medical error can be the result of several factors such as

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– Misdiagnosis .

– Errors in treatment procedures.

– Misuse of medical technology .

– Poor coordination between medical teams .

– Poor communication between medical staff and the patient.

Medical negligence

It is a failure to provide appropriate health care to patients. Medical negligence may occur as a result of several factors including individual negligence of the medical practitioner or contributing elements to the healthcare system such as insufficient resources or overwork.

Examples of medical negligence are varied and may include:

Failure to make a proper diagnosis

– Failure to provide adequate treatment

Misuse of medical technology

–  Poor communication and coordination: poor communication between members of the medical team and lack of coordination between the different health services provided to the patient.

The difference between them

Medical error and medical negligence are concepts associated with health care but have some differences in definition and application. Here’s the difference between them:

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–  Medical error: refers to any error that occurs during the provision of health care whether it is the result of an error in diagnosis, treatment, misuse of medical and other technology. Medical error involves errors from the doctor or health care team.

–  Medical negligence:  refers to negligence or failure to provide appropriate health care to patients. Medical negligence occurs when necessary procedures are ignored or delayed or the resources necessary to provide the right health care are not available.


  Medical error: Medical error refers to wrong actions or decisions associated with health care.

–  Medical negligence: Medical negligence includes omission, failure to take appropriate action, or failure to provide necessary care to patients.


Medical error: may lead to negative consequences for the patient such as delay in diagnosis, deterioration of health condition or additional injuries.

Medical negligence: may lead to negative effects on health care in general and may include an increase in the incidence of injuries and complications and the deterioration of the quality of health services.

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In general, medical error can be considered part of medical negligence as the error can be the result of negligence or failure to provide proper health care.


There are several reasons that can lead to medical error and include the following:

  • Deficiencies in knowledge and skill
  • Non-compliance with medical standards
  • Misdiagnosis
  • Miscommunication and poor communication: Miscommunication can occur between the doctor and the patient or between the doctors involved in the patient’s care. This may lead to misunderstanding of medical information or neglect to follow up on the health problem.
  • Work stress and fatigue: Severe work pressure and fatigue on the ability of doctors to make the right decisions and maintain focus and attention.
  • Systemic and structural errors: There may be a lack of organization and supporting structures in health institutions such as lack of internal guidelines and policies and lack of oversight and review

Punishment for medical error in Egyptian law

In Egyptian law, medical error is a crime that can be punished under the criminal code. The punishment for medical error in Egypt may vary depending on the nature of the crime and its impact on the patient. It is worth noting that laws and penalties may change over time and the development of legislation[2].

Generally, the penalty for medical error in Egypt can include:[3]

1. Cancellation or temporary withdrawal of the license to practice the medical profession.

2. Financial fines imposed on the doctor who caused the medical error.

3. Civil liability where the injured patient can file a lawsuit for compensation for damages incurred as a result of medical error.

4. Criminal accountability where the doctor may be exposed to criminal accountability if it is proven that he caused serious injury or death of the patient as a result of medical error. Criminal penalties may include imprisonment and/or a fine.

The final penalty must be assessed by the judgment of the competent court based on the evidence and testimonies presented in the medical error case. Legal principles and laws applicable in the field of health care and medical issues may be invoked to determine the appropriate punishment.

Medical Liability Departments

Medical liability departments address many different aspects of medical error and define the scope of liability and potential compensation. These sections vary according to the laws and legal regulations in force in each country, but usually medical liability departments can be classified as follows:

1. Civil liability: It relates to the financial compensation that the doctor or health institution must pay to the patient or his family in the event of a medical error. These compensations are determined based on the damage caused to the patient such as physical, emotional or economic damage.

2. Criminal liability: In some serious cases doctors can have criminal liability for wrongful acts that caused physical harm or death to the patient. Possible charges vary in cases of criminal medical error and include gross negligence, manslaughter, causing severe harm, and others.

3. Administrative Responsibility:  This responsibility includes the rules and procedures that doctors and health institutions must adhere to to ensure the provision of safe and quality health care. Physician practices are examined and compliance with professional standards, safety and quality rules, monitoring and review procedures are examined.

4. Professional Responsibility: Professional responsibility is part of medical ethics. Physicians are required to adhere to ethical and professional standards and act in accordance with recognized best practices. Doctors may be subject to professional or disciplinary sanctions if these standards are not complied with. [4]

Medical Liability Obligations

Medical liability obligations are the conditions or criteria that must be met to establish the legal responsibility of a doctor or health institution in the event of a medical error. These obligations include several elements, including:

1. Having a medical relationship: There must be a formal and recognized medical relationship between the doctor and the patient.

2. Error: There is a clear medical error attributed to the doctor or health institution. This means that the doctor has made a mistake in diagnosing the disease, carrying out treatment or providing the necessary care.

3. Negligence: There should be negligence or negligence on the part of the doctor in carrying out his usual professional duty. This means that the doctor did not act with the required attention and skill in accordance with recognized medical standards.

4. Damage: There must be actual damage or compensable negative result suffered by the patient as a result of medical error. This means that medical error has caused the patient to deteriorate his health condition or to suffer physical or psychological damage.

5. Causal relationship: There must be a direct causal link between medical error and the damage resulting from it. This means that medical error is the direct and certain cause of the damage caused to the patient.

The bottom line

Medical liability requires several obligations to be established, including the existence of a formal medical relationship, the existence of a clear medical error attributable to the doctor or health institution, dereliction of professional duty, the existence of actual compensable damage, and a direct causal link between medical error and the damage caused. These obligations vary slightly from country to country and additional details regarding the law and judicial system in each country may be found. Refer to the laws and regulations in your country to learn more about the obligations and penalties of medical liability Potential.

[1]  American Health Care Association: Medical Malpractice and Safety in Health Care

[2]  Egyptian Constitution of 2014, Chapter III on Patients’ Rights and Protection.

[3]  Egyptian Law No. 10 of 1984 on Civil Liability in Cases of Medical Errors

[4]  Report of the Supreme Council of Medicine in Egypt on Medical Malpractice and Doctors’ Responsibility

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